Georgi Markov (March 1, 1929 – September 11, 1978) is Bulgaria’s most famous and talented dissident writer. His first literary works were published in the late 1950s, and by the mid-1960s he had already established himself as a popular and respected author. During that time he was courted by high-ranking communist officials and was introduced to the inner circle of the country’s leader, Todor Zhivkov. However, the attempt to co-opt him failed: even though he wrote several propaganda pieces, Markov eventually became disillusioned with the regime. The mood that permeated his writings grew darker and many of the plot-lines that he developed could be read as thinly concealed condemnations of the communist system. He found it more and more difficult to cope with the pervasive censorship, and eventually his plays and novels were banned.
In 1969 Markov left Bulgaria and moved to London where he worked for the Bulgarian section of the BBC. In the 1970s he wrote and broadcast his brilliant “In Absentia Reports” which contained sharp and devastating critiques of social, political, economic and cultural realities in communist Bulgaria. Immediately after his defection, Markov was tried in absentia and sentenced to a 6-year prison term; later on, however, communist officials deemed this measure insufficient. On September 7, 1978, on Waterloo Bridge, Markov was stabbed in the calf by an agent of the Bulgarian secret service using an umbrella. The umbrella tip contained a small capsule which released powerful toxic substances into the writer’s body. On September 11, 1978, Georgi Markov died of the poisoning in a London hospital.